We get lots of questions about wild game and what makes it different from store-bought meat. We thought it'd be a useful resource to answer some of the most common questions we get, so we put together this frequently asked questions about cooking with wild game to clear some things up. Check it out!
What kind of meat is wild game?
Wild game refers to animals that are harvested from the wild. Wild game includes things like venison, bison, elk, rabbit, and boar. These are all red meat animals, but you'll also find fowl like ducks, pheasant, and quail are popular game animals. Even many fish species like bass, trout, and salmon can be considered wild game when they are not farm-raised or commercially-fished.
What do you serve with wild game?
Your favorite side dishes that you'd typically eat with beef, chicken, or fish still make excellent choices. Try to pick sides that compliment the flavors you use to season your meat. If you have spicy, savory flavors, dishes like braised carrots or mashed potatoes make excellent choices. Lighter fare, like lamb that is braised in white wine go well with pasta, roasted vegetables, and bread.
Is wild game meat healthier?
Wild game is typically much leaner than farm-raised meat. This is the result of the animal's natural tendencies to move around along with the limitations of finding food in the wild. If you are worried about farm-raised animals being given antibiotics, growth hormones, and other unnatural elements, than game will be a healthier option.
Some wild game can carry diseases that can be transferred to humans, so pay attention to the local wildlife authorities. They will usually post information about possible diseases in the wild game population.
What goes well with game meat?
Sweet potatoes are one of the most popular side dishes to serve with gamey venison. The sweet and savory flavor compliments the grassy flavor of the venison and helps bring the whole dish together. Other good choices are stuffing, stuffed mushrooms, or savory dishes like roasted vegetables. We love making wild carrots with game meat for a truly wild dining experience.
How long should you cook game meat?
The length of time you cook your wild game will depend on the method of cooking, the desired level of doneness, and the size of the meat you are cooking. For wild game steaks, you'll cook for just a few minutes per side until you get an internal temperature of between 130 to 140 degrees for food safety. Smoking wild game will take longer and will depend on how hot you are running your smoker. Roasting, braising, and broiling will also take different amounts of time. The best way to get an idea of when your meat is done cooking is to use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperatures.
What is the difference between game meat and farmed meat?
Wild game forages for its food and eats what nature provides. This means that for something like a deer or elk, if you harvest one that eats lots of berries and wild fruit, your meat will have a sweeter venison flavor. Fish that live in murky water will taste like the earth.
Farm-raised animals eat what they are given. Sometimes this means they are pasture-raised and eat native grasses, grains, and weeds. The vast majority of farm-raised red meat is finished on grain that gives the meat a clean, red flavor without any gaminess.
The differences in flavor can be quite startling. If you've ever had the opportunity to try farm-raised turkey alongside wild game bird, you'll immediately notice huge differences. Game birds are leaner, have less meat, and have a darker color along with a more pronounced flavor.
Many people who try grass-fed beef for the first time are put off by the flavor. That is because, without the grains, these animals don't develop the fattiness that pen-raised animals acquire.
How do you get the gamey taste out of meat?
The trick to getting the gamey flavor out of wild game is to process it correctly. That means gutting your animal as quickly as possible and removing the hide, bones, and blood. Cooling the meat as quickly as possible helps prevent the enzyme from forming that causes the gamey flavor.
If someone gives you wild game that has a gamey flavor, our can try soaking it overnight to remove the undesirable flavor. Some people like to use vinegar or diary products for their wild game recipes. One of the most popular solutions is to use buttermilk to remove the gamey flavor. Trimming as much fat as possible usually helps a lot as the fat holds a lot of the gamey flavor. If you're grinding the meat, add some pork fat in a 20-30% ratio.
How do you make game meat tender?
The best way to get tender, moist, and delicious game meat is to cook your meat low and slow. That's one of the reasons we use our smoker for our wild game recipes so often. Cooking low and slow helps to break down connective tissues and releases the tenderness of the meat. Overcooking red meat is a sure-fire way to end up with tough, chewy, and flavorless meat, and this is doubly important for wild game meats.
You can use a marinade to help tenderize your meat before you cook it. Marinating in wine with spices and herbs will help to tenderize the meat and will also help to reduce the gamey flavor some wild game has.
Can a restaurant serve wild game?
Generally, restaurants are not allowed to sell sport-caught wild game. That means that hunters are not allowed to sell game they harvested to restaurants. According to avid hunter and author Hank Shaw, there are a few reasons for this. First, allowing hunters to profit from kills provides a source of money that could encourage over-harvesting, poaching, and illegal hunting activities. Second, wild harvested game meat isn't regulated by the USDA for quality. When you see a restaurant advertising game items, those animals were almost certainly raised on a ranch.
Any More Questions?
We love answering questions about wild game, how to prepare it, and what the best ways to cook and eat wild game are. If you ever have a question, don't be shy. Ask us on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube and we will do the best we can to answer your question. With deer season kicking off, duck and quail season ready to start, and an endless opportunity for catching some of the tastiest fish, incorporating wild game into your families diet is easy.
We hope you take a chance and aren't put off with stories about off-flavors, tough meat, and difficult recipes to pair with sides. You'll find that eating wild game is healthy, sustainable, and delicious.